Live Review: George Michael - The Forum, Los Angeles
Thu, 26 Jun 2008 04:52:20
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It's been 20 years since George Michael last played Los Angeles. If it's another 20 years before he returns, at least the City of Angels can rest assured they got their fill of memories when he headlined The Forum Wednesday night.
"The last time I played here was 1988, I was 25," said the former Wham! frontman turned solo superstar early in the night's highlight-filled, 140-minute performance. "I hope by the end of tonight, you'll have forgiven me for my absence… In fact, I'm going to make sure you forgive me, we'll have a fucking wicked time!"
With a pristine voice and good humored demeanor, and a 15-piece band and one of the most visually compelling video stages in recent memory, the 45-year-old pop idol-turned-club icon-cum-sophisticated crooner lived up to every word of his promise, from the moment the stage opened and the gallant hero of the gay community walked to the center of the screaming arena during opener "Waiting (Reprise)," through the fading chorus of closer "Freedom 90" nearly three hours later. He even celebrated his birthday onstage, the crowd singing "Happy Birthday" on no fewer than two occasions, and his band taking a well rehearsed run through the song as actress Bo Derek presented him with a cake during the evening's encore.
Broken into two hour-plus sets split by a 25-minute intermission, the 23-song setlist was anchored by the Technicolor glitz and rainbow-waving pageantry of Michael's club-driven dance anthems, from the smooth and salacious second song of the night, "Fastlove," to the more flamboyant "An Easier Affair" ("this is for the gays," he offered), "Too Funky" and "Star People '97," which closed the first hour and lit the stage in a vortex of flashing colors that thrust the synth-driven revelry to light speed.
"This song is from 1984. Just turn to the person next to you and imagine them with four times as much hair, and you're almost there. But you'll have to help me, I'm an old man, and I can't hit the high notes anymore…" Michael laughed as he introduced the Wham! hit "Everything She Wants." Despite the fact that the he hardy missed a note all night (if at all), the enthusiastic crowd rose to his vocal challenge, accompanying the six backup singers as neon disco balls and dollar signs flashed in the background.
Other first-set favorites included the night's only other Wham! single, "I'm Your Man," early solo hit "Father Figure," the soft and supple "Jesus To A Child" and the beautiful standout "A Different Corner," which was driven by an evocative vocal performance that proved as vulnerable as it was powerful.
If the first set leaned heavily on Michael's early career, the second set focused on the variety that has marked his more recent work. Though he returned to the stage to the gentle swing of "Faith," it was the more colorful plumage of the "La Cage aux Folles"-flavored "Feeling Good" and a middle-of-the-arena foray through the jazzed-down Police cover "Roxanne" and the old-time, standard-sounding “Kissing A Fool” that proved most resounding amidst the more danceable run of set closers "Amazing," "Flawless (Go To The City)" and "Outside."
There were a bevy of celebrities in the crowd, but it was television therapist Dr. Phil who got the most memorable George Michael shout out, to the crowd's booing dismay. "In the sea of smiling faces, he's looked miserable for the last hour," Michael ribbed as the video screens showed the Oprah favorite and his wife. "You should see someone about that!"
"Praying For Time," the song Michael performed on the season finale of American Idol, opened the encore, and was followed by the highly anticipated sing-along sway of "Careless Whisper" and the night's celebratory closing favorite "Freedom '90."
"Thank you, I've had a wonderful night," said Michael before kicking into "Freedom." "Do you forgive me?" While the answer was a resounding roar from the crowd, more interesting was his closing remarks as he left the stage: "I'll see you soon…"
George Michael kicked off the six week North American leg of his current 25 Live Tour in San Diego, CA, June 17. The 21-city run is highlighted by three stops in Southern California (San Diego, Los Angeles and Friday night’s show in Anaheim) and two nights at New York City's Madison Square Garden, and closes August 3, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The world tour, which started in September 2006 in Barcelona, Spain, will conclude with two shows, "The Final Two," August 24-25 at Earls Court, in London, England.